The Equipment Leasing & Finance Foundation’s March 2015 Monthly Confidence Index revealed that confidence in the equipment finance market is at 72.1, the highest level in four years, and an increase from the February index of 66.3.

Designed to collect leadership data, the index reports a qualitative assessment of both the prevailing business conditions and expectations for the future as reported by key executives from the $903-billion equipment finance sector.

Other March 2015 survey results include:

• 50% of executives who responded said they believe business conditions will improve over the next four months, up from 30.3% in February. 50% of respondents believe business conditions will remain the same over the next four months, down from 63.6% in February. None believes business conditions will worsen, down from 6.1% who believed so the previous month.

• 41.7% of survey respondents believe demand for leases and loans to fund capital expenditures will increase over the next four months, down from 42.4% in February. 58.3% believe demand will remain the same, up from 51.5% the previous month. None believes demand will decline, down from 6.1% in February.

• 25% of executives expect more access to capital to fund equipment acquisitions over the next four months, down from 27.3% in February. 75% of survey respondents indicate they expect the same access to capital to fund business, up from 72.7% in February. None expects less access to capital, unchanged from the previous month.

• 70.8% of the executives reported they expect to hire more employees over the next four months, an increase from 39.4% in February. 25% expect no change in headcount over the next four months, down from 57.6% last month. 4.2% expect to hire fewer employees, up from 3% who expected fewer in February.

• 12.5% of the leadership evaluate the current U.S. economy as excellent, up from 6.1% last month.  87.5% of the leadership evaluates the current U.S. economy as fair, down from 90.9% in February. None rate it as poor, down from 3% the previous month.

• 45.8% of the survey respondents believe that U.S. economic conditions will get better over the next six months, relatively unchanged from 45.5% who believed so in February. 54.2% of survey respondents indicate they believe the U.S. economy will stay the same over the next six months, unchanged from February. None believes economic conditions in the U.S. will worsen over the next six months, also unchanged from last month.

• In March, 58.3% of respondents indicate they believe their companies will increase spending on business development activities during the next six months, an increase from 48.5% in February. 41.7% believe there will be no change in business development spending, a decrease from 51.5% last month. None believes there will be a decrease in spending, unchanged from last month.

“Equipment financing demand is continuing although there are increasing clouds of uncertainty,” said Harry Kaplun, president, Frost Equipment Leasing and Finance. “In particular the full impact of lower oil prices has not been seen. This favorable event for consumers has a mixed impact commercially.”